Ryan Hilinski put up his third 300-yard passing game (325) in the 20-15 loss to Appalachian State, Saturday. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

South Carolina’s disappointing season took another blow with a 20-15 loss to Appalachian State, Saturday. The Gamecocks struggled to move the ball offensively and didn’t register a touchdown until the fourth quarter. A late rally developed behind a pair of 4th-down conversions, but soured after a series of penalties. The final play was a near-miss in the end zone that would have been negated by a holding penalty.

The Mountaineers (8-1), having already knocked off North Carolina, played with confidence and stifled every aspect of the South Carolina offense for the first three quarters. Running backs Rico Dowdle, Deshaun Fenwick and Kevin Harris combined for just 20 yards on 19 carries.

With the running game offering little to no production, the game was placed on the shoulder of freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski. But with multiple injuries to receivers and tight ends, including losing veteran Bryan Edwards to a sprained knee for much of the first half, Hilinski was forced to rely on an unproven group. Hilinski put up 325 yards, but the passing game suffered from drops and miscommunication. Edwards returned and scored the Gamecocks only touchdown in the fourth quarter, becoming South Carolina’s all-time leader in receiving yards in the process.

Appalachian State entered the game with a stellar offensive reputation (38.5 points/game, 6.24 yards/play, 48% 3rd-down conversion rate), but few would have expected the Mountaineers to smother the Gamecocks defensively. App. State’s overall defensive numbers are good, but after surrendering 31 points to UNC, 37 points to Coastal Carolina and 41 points to Charlotte, the Gamecocks expected better production. Muschamp said, “We felt good about being able to run the ball … but give them credit, they made the plays they had to make, and we didn’t make enough of them.”

South Carolina (4-6) will have to regroup emotionally before making the trip to College Station to face Texas A&M.

My recap from Williams-Brice

Bryan Edwards surpassed Alshon Jeffery to become the Gamecocks all-time leader in receiving yards. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

Key takeaways from Gamecocks loss

  • Ryan Hilinski’s first interception since the Missouri game was returned 20 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
  • Wide receiver Bryan Edwards left in the 1st quarter with a sprained knee, but returned after receiving treatment.
  • Running backs Dowdle, Fenwick and Harris rushed for a combined 8 yards on 13 carries in the first half.
  • Kicker Parker White knocked down a career-long 50-yard field goal in the third quarter.
  • Despite struggling much of the game offensively, South Carolina did outgain Appalachian State 346-202. Much of the Gamecocks yardage was posted after falling behind 20-9 in the third quarter.
  • Will Muschamp mentioned during his postgame press conference that there was a plan to utilize Dakereon Joyner more at quarterback but they needed him at wide receiver.
  • Appalachian State was among the nation’s leaders in 3rd-down conversions heading into the game at 48%, but were limited to 2 of 13 (13%) by the South Carolina defense.
  • The Gamecocks converted 4 of 5 4th downs.
  • Mountaineers quarterback Zac Thomas rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter. It’s only the fifth rushing touchdown surrendered by the South Carolina defense this season.
  • As this was a “guarantee game,” Appalachian State received a $900,000 check for its participation.

Final stats

Linebacker Ernest Jones intercepted a pass and led a Gamecocks defense that limited Appalachian State to 202 total yards.

Will Muschamp press conference

Bryan Edwards and Donnell Stanley

Ernest Jones and D.J. Wonnum